This day of lectures will explore three different aspects of Russian cultural and artistic life ranging from the times of Catherine the Great to the last Romanov Tsar Nicholas II.
This lecture tells the remarkable story of how an obscure German princess fended off accusations of illegitimacy and rose to become one of the most illustrious monarchs in history. Along the way she transformed the Russian Empire, which by the time of her death in 1796 was the largest the world had seen since the fall of Rome, into one of the great powers of Europe. She created a brilliant court and led a scandalous personal life, taking a succession of ever-younger lovers. She was a ruthless despot and a peerless collector of art: the enormous Hermitage museum in St Petersburg is a lasting testament to her legacy.
Tchaikovsky was one of the first people to perceive Chekhov’s genius, and unusually took the step of becoming personally acquainted with the writer, despite his shy and retiring nature. The admiration was mutual, and the much younger Chekhov was proud to dedicate a story collection to the great composer. This lecture explores why Tchaikovsky and Chekhov should have felt such admiration for each other’s work, and examines their lives and careers in the context of late nineteenth-century Russian culture, paying particular attention to the paintings of Isaak Levitan, whose name is often mentioned in the same breath. Levitan, Russia’s greatest landscape painter, was one of Chekhov’s best friends. The lecture will discuss the elegiac, lyrical and autumnal quality of their work, which, together with Tchaikovsky’s music, evokes so well the atmosphere of late Imperial Russia.
Under Nicholas II, the last Romanov Tsar, the arts flourished like never before. This lecture looks at how fearless young Russian artists such as Natalia Goncharova shocked polite society with their revolutionary exhibitions of radical new work, and how impresarsios like Diaghilev created the sensational Ballets Russes. As well as discussing how Kandinsky and Scriabin became pioneers of abstraction and atonality, we will explore how at the same time more conservative artists like Rachmaninov steadfastly resisted the path of the new, writing brooding symphonies and sacred choral works whose melodies speak of his passionate attachment to his native land.
Rosamund Bartlett is a writer, scholar and translator with expertise in Russian and European art, literature and music. She is the author and editor of several books, including Wagner and Russia and Shostakovich in Context, as well as biographies of Chekhov and Tolstoy. She has also been commissioned to write articles for a wide range of publications, both scholarly and popular, such as The Daily Telegraph, the international art magazine Apollo, and the programmes of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
As a translator, Dr Bartlett published two volumes of Chekhov’s stories and the first uncensored edition of his letters. Her new translation of Anna Karenina for Oxford World’s Classics was published to acclaim in 2014.
She has lectured at public institutions around the world, ranging from the National Theatre in London to the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, collaborated with the organisations such as the Philharmonia Orchestra and the Salzburg Festival, and contributed to Proms events and radio broadcasts on the BBC. She led the campaign to save Chekhov’s house in Yalta, and was awarded the Chekhov 150th Anniversary Medal by the Russian government in recognition of her educational and charitable work.
The Burford Town Bowls Club, Burford Recreation Ground, Tanners Lane, Burford OX18 4NA. There is parking at the Bowls Club.
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In our modern world it’s easy to take colour for granted. Yet before organic chemistry the most desirable pigments were often exotic or poisonous. Merchants supplied pungent yellow ‘purree’ nuggets from India, cochineal ‘grana’ from the holds of Spanish galleons, lapis rock was carried by camel train from the mountains of Badakhshan. Alchemists prepared deadly ‘King’s Yellow’ and ‘ruby of arsenic’. ‘Moorish Gold’ was concocted, according to a 12th century monk, from basilisk powder ground with human blood! Small wonder artists kept their paint recipes closely guarded in Books of Secrets. Some pigments, such as crimson lakes and indigo were also fabric dyes. Crimson was thought to derive from worms and indigo from the ‘ooze of the Nile’.
Many pigments also had uses as cosmetics and, dubiously efficacious, medicines. Deadly cinnabar was used as lipstick by wealthy Roman ladies, toxic orpiment was applied to the scalp as a hair restorative and caput mortuum, from powdered mummies, was once a general cure-all! This day tells the fascinating stories of alchemy and adventure behind some our most beautiful and colourful paintings.
Lynne is a freelance lecturer in the History of Art, Critical and Contextual Studies, as well as in practical Drawing, Painting and Printmaking. She has held posts at the Universities of Sussex and Bristol, where she introduced 'Understanding Art' to the Lifelong Learning programme. She gives talks, lectures, courses and guided tours for a wide range of organisations including ARCA colleges, Art Galleries and Museums, The Art Fund, The National Trust and The Arts Society.
She has worked as a professional artist specializing in oil painting and etching. Her work has been exhibited widely and used in a range of publications.
Brian will take his audience on a journey beginning in Outer Mongolia in the 5th century BC and following the 11th century migrations from Turkmenistan, the cradle of weaving, into the Caucasus, Persia and Afghanistan. He will introduce the nomadic tribes of these countries with emphasis on their pre-1900 knotted and woven rugs, carpets and dowry bags. These tribal weavings illustrate the skill of these hardy women who produced exquisite works of woven art, using vegetable dyes and age-old symbolic representation whilst living and travelling in primitive conditions and hostile landscapes. With the advent of commercialism and chemical dyes, tribal weaving began a swift decline from the 1930s when it virtually ceased to exist in its spontaneous form.
The tribal weavings of the 19th century and earlier represent the pinnacle of achievement and wonderful free expression of the art of the nomadic weaver. Today, these weavings are highly desirable and collectable works of woven art.
Brian has been dealing in antique and old tribal rugs, dowry weavings and decorative carpets from the Near East and Central Asia since 1979.
From 1972-1977 he lived and worked in Iran, spending the best part of a year amongst two tribal groups, the Afshar of Kerman province and the Qashqa’i of Fars, making him fortunate enough to be one of the few world dealers to have spent time ‘in the field’. He also travelled extensively throughout Iran, Afghanistan and Turkey and in 1990 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society for his work amongst the Persian Tribes. He has returned to Iran several times in recent years, travelling, sourcing and collecting exclusive weavings.
Warwick Hall, Church Green, Burford, Oxon OX18 4RY
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